The Hygienic Alternative: Using Bidets for Cleaner Hands and a Greener Planet

2023-10-16 14:17:00
Using a bidet instead of toilet paper significantly reduces the presence of microbes on your hands (Freepik)

Q: I feel like I’m using the wrong toilet paper or that the one I’m using is too harsh on my skin. How should I clean myself after going to the bathroom?

A: Instead of wiping yourself with toilet paper, try using a bidet.

The bidets are soft and hygienic. In fact, a study of 2022 found that the hands of people who use bidets have far fewer germs than those of those who wipe.

Researchers asked 32 nursing students in Japan to wear clean medical gloves when they used the bathroom to defecate and subsequently examined those gloves to see what bacteria grew. People who wiped with toilet paper later had an average of almost 40,000 different viable bacteria attached to their gloves. Bacteria on bidet users’ gloves were reduced almost 10 times.

The study was small and more rigorous research is needed on the effects of using bidets compared to toilet paper. But as a member of the #teambidet, I have seen the difference they can make in the lives of my patients.

I recommend them all the time to my patients with loose stools, such as irritable bowel syndrome, who find that constantly wiping leaves their skin raw. Bidets are also great for anyone who has difficulty with balance or coordination when wiping themselves again, and are especially great for people with hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or those recovering from postpartum.

The use of a bidet could be a sustainable option that reduces the waste of toilet paper and water, contributing to a more ecological home (Pixabay)

Bidets are not only better for your wallet (think about how much toilet paper your family uses each month), but they’re also better for the environment. While you waste an eighth of a gallon of water per use with a bidet, toilet paper waste plummets. It takes about 1.5 pounds of wood and more than six gallons of water to produce a single roll of toilet paper.

I get it, though: It can be hard to get over the weirdness of trying something new in an area where new things aren’t tried often. But once you experience that level of freshness, it becomes so intuitive that it’s hard to go back to just cleaning it.

There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to adjusting the water pressure and reaching all the corners. And unless you have a fancy bidet with a dryer, you’ll need to dry the area with a sheet of toilet paper or a clean towel.

To start using a bidet, it is not necessary to buy a completely new toilet. Toilet seat accessories can cost around $50. You’ll need to measure your toilet and think about the nearest retail outlet as you make your purchasing decisions.

Choosing between single-ply and double-ply toilet paper depends on personal preference, comfort, and impact on the environment.

Can’t understand the idea of ​​a bidet? You can still give your butt the tender loving care it deserves by investing in two-ply or more toilet paper.

Toilet paper sold in the United States is usually made from trees from Canada’s boreal forest. Regarding the number of layers per sheet: one layer is a single layer of fabric, while two layers are two glued together

Those in favor of single-ply paper argue that it is better for the environment because it dissolves more easily and kills fewer trees. But a single layer is thinner and rougher on the skin, and people can form an especially thick wad when faced with a single layer.

And a note on “disposable wipes”: I recommend them in certain situations, such as for people with hemorrhoids or for bowel prep for a screening colonoscopy. But as luxurious as they are, they probably can’t be flushed down the toilet and should instead be disposed of in the trash.

Men typically don’t wipe themselves at all after urinating. It’s probably not harmful to your health; There have been no studies to prove it.

Girls and women often learn to wipe from front to back after urinating or defecating. The idea behind this is that women have shorter urethras (the tube leading to the bladder) than men and that wiping from back to front could give fecal bacteria a greater chance of reaching the urethra, where they have to travel a small distance before causing a urinary tract infection.

Getting a urinary tract infection does not mean for anyone that they have simply “cleaned incorrectly”; There are a lot of associations with urinary tract infections at play and that whole area isn’t exactly sterile. But wiping inside out is a risk factor worth mitigating.

Physiological differences between men and women lead to different cleaning practices after urinating (Freepik)

Cleaning can be rough and abrasive on the delicate skin around the anus. While everyone’s poop is different, and that’s perfectly normal, if you’re someone who has looser stools more frequently, there’s a chance you’re wiping a lot.

My friends, let me introduce you to the power of dabbing: Instead of wiping, gently dab the excess onto the tissue to avoid irritating your skin or aggravating pesky hemorrhoids. Before flushing, close the toilet lid. You may be thinking that the next step is to tighten your pants and go out. But what about the toilet lid?

A 2012 study found that C. difficile bacteria spread nearly 12 times more during washing when the lid is up compared to when the lid is down. Even if it’s your bathroom at home, you probably don’t want aerosol particles from the toilet landing on your toothbrush.

What I want my patients to know

Now that you’ve touched the wipes, lid, and flush, wash your hands afterward. I’m sorry to say this, but you’re not exempt if you use your foot to flush, as some do in a public bathroom: your hand still has bacteria.

Diseases can spread when fecal pathogens reach our mouths, so washing your hands thoroughly is an extra 20 seconds well spent.

* (c) The Washington Post 2023

* Trisha Pasricha is a doctor and journalist and writes the Ask a Doctor column for The Washington Post. She is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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